Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 7, 2003

Cities, bar owners consider later closing time option

By Julie Yurek

Bars owners looking to stay open an extra hour of business will have to wait until their cities decide on the issue.

If cities have ordinances regarding bar closing at 1 a.m., cities have the choice to keep it at 1 a.m. or to change it to 2 a.m., according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The City of Winsted decided to keep the city ordinance as is at Tuesday's city council meeting.

New Germany has decided to follow state law, while Lester Prairie has not yet decided.

The city sent out a letter to bar owners asking them to provide comments or suggestions on the issue at the meeting.

The city received opinions from Keg's Bar owner Brian Langenfeld and Tom's Corner Bar owner Tom Mickolichek. Neither were interested in extending their hours, said City Administrator Brent Mareck.

Jeff Campbell, co-owner of the Blue Note of Winsted, agreed. Campbell was the only bar owner to attend the meeting.

"I don't see a need for it," Campbell said.

The city did not know the feelings of Bailey's Tavern and Grill owner Jeff Fuerstenberg as of the meeting.

"I would go with the 2 a.m. closing," Fuerstenberg told the Herald Journal Wednesday. "Otherwise, people will be leaving town for places that are open later."

Fuerstenberg would probably extend Bailey's hours Thursday through Saturday, he said.

"It would be nice to at least have the option of staying open until 2 a.m.," he said.

Council Member Tom Wiemiller asked Campbell if one establishment in Winsted would move to 2 a.m., what would the Blue Note do?

"It might affect the Blue Note," he said.

Shifts are already set at eight hours and an extra hour would throw off that schedule, he said.

If bars in other towns decide to stay open later, he'd have to see, he said. It would only be on the weekends that he'd stay open later, he added.

Mareck informed the council of Police Chief Mike Henrich's opinion. Calls would go later into the night, which could cause overtime expenses in the budget, Mareck said.

The city is not restricted to a time limit to change the ordinance, said Council Member Tom Ollig. If an establishment comes back in six months, the council can address the issue again at that time, he said.

Cities that use the state statutes regarding bar closing times may make an amendment to keep the closing at 1 a.m., according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Those cities without city ordinances will automatically fall under the 2 a.m. closing time if not amended.

The City of New Germany is just beginning to discuss the issue, said City Clerk Shelly Quaas.

There has been hearsay of one bar owner interested in closing later, but the city has not received a request, Quaas said.

The City of Lester Prairie is discussing the issue, but nothing has been decided, said Darla Simon of the Lester Prairie City Hall.

The city does have an ordinance that state hours of sale, said Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson.

The state will require additional fees and license requirements should any city choose to extend liquor sale hours, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Licensees will need to apply for a special 2 a.m. license from the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division and pay a fee based on their previous 12 months of liquor receipts.

Bar owners' opinions

The Porthole Bar and Cafe in Lester Prairie would stay with the 1 a.m. closing time, said owner Ed Groff. "I don't see a reason for it in our community."

He is in favor of the new law for certain areas of the state, he said.

The Dodge House will most likely stay at the 1 a.m. closing, said Connie Gatz, owner.

David Heimerl, owner of Heimey's Place in New Germany, would stay at with the 1 a.m. closing.

"One a.m. is fine," he said.

Patty Dietel, owner of the T-Road Tavern in New Germany, is undecided on the issue, she said.

"I would like to wait and see what other bars are doing," she said.

Rack Em Up in New Germany, formerly Jonnie G's, would stay with the 1 a.m. closing, said owner Kelly Rehmann.

The Hollywood Ranch House would not go to the 2 a.m. closing because of the cost issue, said owner Rod Heldt.

"It is so unfair for the smaller guys," Heldt said.

With the increased fees and licenses it would cost the Ranch House $500, he said.

Heldt would only use the later closing time about four times a year, which means it would cost him $125 for that extra hour those few times a year, he said.

The Ranch House falls under the jurisdiction of Carver County, and usually the county goes with the state, Heldt said.

For Joe Swartzer, owner of the Hollywood Sports Complex, "it's follow the leader."

He'll wait and see what other bar owners are doing, he said.

If his neighbors go to 2 a.m., from a business aspect he would have to too, he said.

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